Category Archives: 2018 Governor’s Race

MCEA’s Awkward Alliance

This year, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) – the teachers union – decided to support Ben Jealous for governor. Fine, so far.

But this just got very awkward after last night’s education forum. Except for Rich Madaleno from Montgomery, all of the other candidates, including Ben Jealous, embraced a new wealth based formula for education funding that just kills Montgomery.

I imagine it also does little for affluent Howard. The new formula  zeros out funding for Talbot, Kent, and Worcester counties. Not only would it eliminate all no state aid for these three Eastern Shore jurisdictions, it also would require all that money to be made up in local taxes. Every penny cut would be required by state law to be replaced by local funds.

If there is one thing MCEA opposes, it’s cutting funds for Montgomery County Public Schools. Now, they’re supporting a candidate who wants to siphon large sums of money away from Montgomery to other jurisdictions.

Beyond the large number of portable classrooms, Montgomery faces a growing number of students who need extra help for a variety of reasons but who don’t come from families with a lot of extra money to help pick up the slack.

In the past, Adam Pagnucco has written about state funding formulas are already skewed against Montgomery, even as we face burgeoning problems in the public schools. Separately, a hike in the millionaires tax, paid primarily by Montgomery, has helped fund a burst of construction in Baltimore and elsewhere in the State.

The changes endorsed by all candidates except Madaleno would massively undermine efforts by Montgomery to address the achievement gap here. Indeed, the County would be hard pressed to maintain its current commitment with the size of cuts proposed, as Adam has explained well in a piece aptly titled “Hell, No!”

While this is awkward for Montgomery advocates of greater state school funding who support a variety of candidates, I imagine it might dismay county officials who support Rushern Baker at least partly in the hope that the D.C. area would get more attention to its increasingly serious needs.

But the problem is particularly acute for MCEA. They’ve found themselves behind a candidate whose platform would result in enormous pressure on the salaries and pensions of their members or force major cuts elsewhere in an already pressed county budget despite county efforts for years to protect education funding.

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Ervin Drops Out, Plans to Endorse Baker

Former Montgomery County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who faced an uphill battle in her effort to run for governor has decided to leave the race and to endorse Rushern Baker.

Ervin decided to run after the sudden and sad death of her running mate, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. She faced an uphill battle due to her inability to access his campaign funds. The Board of Elections also could not change the ballots this close to the election, despite Ervin’s complete eligibility under state law to run in Kamenetz’s place and select a new running mate.

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Vignarajah’s Day in Court

The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court made its first decision in Horn v. Vignarajah et al, the case on Krish Vignarajah’s eligibility to run for governor. The court granted the motion by the defendent’s (i.e. Vignarajah’s) attorney to dismiss a request for declaratory judgement by the plaintiff.

I suspect this decision will allow Vignarajah to remain on the primary ballot. There probably is not enough time between now and the primary election for the judge to hear the case and to reach an outcome.

The Vignarajah campaign has called a press conference on the steps of the Anne Arundel Circuit Court – no doubt to declare this a victory and probably to reiterate her claims that her eligibility is beyond question despite having only voted here once and repeatedly declaring her residency in D.C.

Careful observers, however, should note that the case continues. The judge made no determination on the underlying issue of her eligibility, which is also clouded by the time limit for a challenge arranged by the State Board of Elections.

The most likely outcome to the case is dismissal due it being moot after Vignarajah loses the primary. Of course, it would continue if she somehow managed to win the nomination. Her voting record and residency issues provide a buffet for Hogan in any case.

Vignarajah has heavily implied questioning of her ballot access is sexist and racist:

Vignarajah’s campaign spokeswoman, Aryn Frazier, told the Post in an email in response to the lawsuit that “Sadly, it’s no surprise that the only two candidates in this race who have had their ballot access questioned by political operatives are the two women of color.”

Except that Valerie Ervin and Krish Vignarajah’s cases are wholly different. Ervin unquestionably meets the requirements. The judge’s decision focused on the ability to reprint the ballots – not on her eligibility – and all candidates and Democrats agree that she is eligible and would have preferred fixing the ballot.

Instead of claiming sexism or racism, it’d be nice if she would fulfill her promise to release her tax returns.

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Our Revolution is Neither

Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign resonated with Democratic voters in a rare way. While he did not achieve the success of Barack Obama’s electrifying 2008 election, his campaign helped create a spontaneous movement of support. Certainly, I saw it among my students who overwhelmingly favored Sanders and felt about him much like I had about Obama.

But spontaneous happenings only achieve long-term success if they institutionalize themselves and evolve into something more than what was once known as a happening in the 1960s. The Sanders movement has done that as the Sanders’ call for “a revolution” has evolved into the decidedly non-revolutionary organization called Our Revolution.

Our Revolution Maryland’s (ORM) approach in this election is emblematic of this new highly institutionalized, even establishment, approach. The campaign by Ben Jealous, a co-chair of Sanders’ 2016 bid, has all the spontaneity of your average Brezhnev-era central committee meeting. The contrast with the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign could hardly be greater.

While Sanders supporters bitterly objected to what they viewed as the Democratic National Committee’s tilt in favor of Hillary Clinton, that has nothing on ORM’s “process” for endorsing a gubernatorial nominee. Before the official process even began, Jealous told other candidates in no uncertain terms that ORM and Sanders’ organization would back him.

Prior to the launch of ORM’s kabuki endorsement process, ORM’s Director appeared right behind Jealous at the announcement of his gubernatorial campaign. Unsurprisingly, no other gubernatorial candidate agreed to participate in ORM’s endorsement charade because they didn’t want to validate a pre-determined outcome.

The Jealous campaign has been no less establishment. Its pollster, for example, is Fred Yang. He’s a deservedly well-respected Washington Democratic pollster. Yang has also worked on campaigns for numerous other mainstream Democratic candidates and issues, such as the Maryland marriage equality referendum in 2012.

Jealous’ running mate, Susie Turnbull, has held no elective office but she practically defines the term “insider” as a wealthy and connected former Maryland Democratic Party Chair – and not a renegade choice for that position. Turnbull has also long been very active in national DNC politics. Hardly the choice of a self-proclaimed revolutionary running to take down the Democratic establishment.

ORM has also made the highly strategic choice to avoid endorsing in the U.S. Senate campaign in order to support Jealous. Most mainstream Democrats regard U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin as a great guy but the more overtly hardline progressives are not happy, especially about Cardin’s unflinching support for Israel. ORM didn’t endorse either of Cardin’s more left-wing primary challengers as part of an effort to keep the influential Cardin out of the gubernatorial race.

As it turns out, the vaunted vanguard of the progressive revolution is not so different from the mainstream Democratic Party. Jealous hires the same political people, has an establishment running mate and received the pre-determined support of a political organization that, in turn, has tactically decided not to endorse other progressive candidates to help out Jealous.

It’s not surprising that Jealous would take this route. The NAACP remains the grand old dame and most established of African-American organizations. Moreover, the reason smart candidates don’t expect their campaign to be spontaneous electrifying happenings is that approach generally doesn’t work.

Just don’t expect much revolutionary out of Our Revolution or its candidate. Jealous decries half-measures and enjoys citing his grandmother’s wisdom that if you only fix half of a problem, you still have a problem. But, if elected, you should still expect lots of compromises, a hallmark of the American political system, or not much to happen at all. The revolutionary rhetoric cannot really mask a non-revolutionary approach.

That’s all to the good, as revolution is vastly overrated and most don’t turn out nearly as well as the American version.

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Madaleno’s Radical Kiss

Who knew a kiss could be so radical?

Political advertisements rarely do something different. In public, straight people kiss all the time. In the media, they often do a lot more. For all the real and significant advances of the LGBT-rights movement, LGBT people are far more cautious.

Even mainstream television shows with LGBT characters rarely show much basic, normal affection. Will & Grace, which has two major gay characters, is practically the archetype for the absence of physical affection. (Andrew Sullivan refers to Will as the “eunuch.”)

Political ads take it to a whole new level. After all, political ads try to present candidates as wholesome, family oriented individuals. Candidates don’t want to threaten target voters but make them think he or she is “one of us.”

By showing himself kissing his husband with his two terrific African-American children, Madaleno pushes the boundary – and not in a safe, made for cable series but in a political advertisement. It explicitly makes the case and challenges voters that his marriage and his family are just as good as anyone else’s.

Now THAT’s progressive.

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Vignarajah Eligibility Challenged in Court

Douglas Horn has filed a lawsuit against the Maryland State Board of Elections asking for a declaratory judgement that Krish Vignarajah is ineligible to run for governor and mandating the removal of her name from the ballot.

The claim essentially reiterates many of the same issues I have raised here regarding her failure to meet the requirement for being registered for five years in advance of the election. It cites her voter registration and record in D.C. along with her wedding license declaring D.C. her residence.

Here is the complaint:

The most likely successful defense by the BOE is related to laches, the idea that lawsuits must be filed in a timely manner. A court has already ruled that it’s too late to grant Valerie Ervin’s request for her ticket to replace the Kamenetz/Ervin ticket on the ballot even though it has much merit even according to the court.

Otherwise, I cannot see how Vignarajah wins on the merits. A more interesting lawsuit would be the one inevitably filed by the Republicans if she somehow won the nomination, as there would be plenty of time to remove Vignarajah from the ballot.

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Jealous Snags Poll Position in Gov Race

The Washington Post reports the results of a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll:

Gov. Hogan performs well against all Democrats:

[Hogan’s] 71 percent job-approval rating among all Marylanders matches his previous record high, and residents are more optimistic about the state’s direction than in any Washington Post poll over the past quarter-century, the poll finds. The governor leads each Democrat by at least 10 percentage points in possible general-election matchups.

State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (Montgomery) has 6 percent support in the Post-U-Md. poll, although he is among the most competitive of the Democrats in a head-to-head matchup with Hogan.

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The Utter Absurdity of Vignarajah’s Claim of Deep Support for LGBT Marylanders

Can Krish Vignarajah’s campaign get any more ridiculous?

The Washington Blade published a puff piece on Vignarajah in which she touts her deep support for LGBT Marylanders. She has a nice laundry list of policy concerns:

Vignarajah said as governor she would support Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s decision to challenge the Trump administration’s efforts to ban trans people from the military.

Vignarajah supports the repeal of Maryland’s sodomy law and would seek to eliminate the provision of the state’s trans rights law that exempts religious institutions and private institutions. Vignarajah’s campaign platform also calls for an end to discrimination against LGBT Marylanders in housing, healthcare, employment, education and public services.

Vignarajah has called for the use of additional funding from Maryland’s general fund to combat homelessness among LGBT youth. She would also support legislation “explicitly protecting” adoption rights for same-sex couples.

Vignarajah’s platform also calls upon the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to make it easier for Marylanders to change the gender marker on their driver’s licenses.

Except she chose not to vote in the 2012 referendum on marriage equality. Despite claiming a strong commitment to LGBT Marylanders and that she would be the most pro-LGBT governor ever, she just couldn’t be bothered to drive home to Maryland to vote or request an absentee ballot.

Instead, she voted in DC for “convenience.” By the way, this also means she missed the vote on the Maryland DREAM Act, so perhaps we might also ignore her commitment to “Making Maryland the Most Immigrant-Friendly State in America.”

How stupid does she think we are?

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Ben Jealous’s Need to Claim Credit for Marriage Equality is Just so Wrong

It’s a strange day when a straight man takes credit for marriage equality in Maryland but Ben Jealous is that guy.

I’m certainly happy that the NAACP moved to endorse marriage equality on his watch. It was a good decision and showed leadership. But it is a far cry from claiming to be the critical guy who made marriage equality happen.

In debates and on twitter, Jealous and his campaign have repeatedly cited the Baltimore Sun editorial honoring him as Marylander of Year as evidence to back up his claim. Indeed, it’s a generous editorial:

“Maryland is a better state — and ours is a more perfect union — because of Ben Jealous and his commitment to justice, equality, and the dignity of every child’s home,” Governor O’Malley said. “Here in Maryland, he was an indispensable part of repealing the death penalty, passing the Maryland Dream Act, ensuring civil marriage equality and expanding access to voting.”

When it comes to his being “indispensable” on marriage equality, however, Jealous and his campaign have been categorically unable and unwilling to provide any evidence to back up the claims of the editorial.

When the Jealous campaign tweeted a link to the editorial at me, I read it and then asked which legislators’ minds he had changed. The reply is revealing:

In other words, Jealous cannot identify a single legislator who changed their mind thanks to his efforts. I followed up by asking how many community organizers he had placed on the ground, as he claimed that had made the difference:

Personally, I preferred the Taylor Swift version of his reply. But again, it’s revealing. Rather than answer the hard-hitting question, he attacks the questioner. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to accuse me of “pride” when he’s the guy claiming to have gotten marriage equality and numerous other legislative initiatives done.

So ultimately, beyond the editorial and the nice quote from Martin O’Malley of the sort that politicians tend to give when asked about someone receiving an award, we’re left with a whole lot of bupkis for evidence.

As someone who was actively part of Equality Maryland’s legislative lobbying team and Co-President of Equality Maryland during the referendum fight, I have some knowledge on the question. Jealous never showed up at any of the strategy sessions held with key legislators that I attended.

Jealous  was certainly never mentioned when it came to recruiting key votes on the issues. Carrie Evans, the Executive Director of Equality Maryland, played a key role in recruiting at least one Republican to a yes vote. Rep. Jamie Raskin, then a state senator, played a similar role in wooing the vote of a colleague on the fence.

Most importantly, I know that Sen. Rich Madaleno, who I support, spent years indefatigably working on this issue long before it was fashionable. As part of a long-term strategy, he built legislative capital and support to get the bill on the floor and passed. So many outsider candidates like to denigrate Annapolis politics, yet how do they think bills become laws and why then are they running for office?

Moreover, Rich Madaleno focused his energies so heavily on raising money for the marriage campaign that his own campaign account was sufficiently low to attract a challenge from deep pocketed Dana Beyer. (I should also mention that Ben Jealous’s running mate, Susie Turnbull, was very active in assisting the effort to win the 2012 referendum.)

None of the leaders of Equality Maryland, or any other incredibly kind and giving people who worked hard on the bill, have ever claimed to have been the key person in getting marriage equality accomplished. While I feel I did my bit, I also know that many were on the scene long before I arrived and also personally saw the self-effacing involvement of many good people.

One example I remember often is that of Del. Ben Barnes. He carried the bill for years in the House before it had a real chance of becoming law. Nevertheless, when asked to step aside for other sponsors in order to help advance the bill, he did so without any hesitation whatsoever. That’s someone who will never get much public credit but deserves it. The late Sen. Gwendolyn Britt similarly sponsored the bill in the Senate until she passed.

I do want to thank two straight African-American men for their incredibly helpful support: President Barack Obama and the late former NAACP President Julian Bond. President Obama’s timely evolution on the issue in advance of his own 2012 reelection bid created a critical and noticeable bump in the polls among African-American voters. When I asked Julian Bond if he’d be willing to appear in pro-marriage ads (he had the office next door to me at AU), he said yes immediately. I’ve also never seen anyone look so embarrassed when I thanked him in his office just before I got legally married.

Back to pride for a moment. If Ben Jealous wants to spout quotes on pride at me, he might think on another one before claiming credit for being the critical person in a long-term effort of someone else’s civil rights movement: “Pride goeth before a fall.”

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